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Renewable generation eclipses coal, nuclear for 2nd straight month in April

Although U.S. net generation in April fell 6.6% below the same month in 2019, renewable generation has continued to grow as a source of the nation's supply and surpassed nuclear and coal for the second month in a row.

Renewables accounted for 23.3% of the total, expanding its lead on nuclear generation as the second-largest source of power supply. Nuclear generation made up 21.5% of the nation's electricity, while gas-fired generation remained the largest supplier of power with a 39.3% share.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest "Electric Power Monthly" released June 24, overall utility-scale generation net of hydroelectric pumped storage in April fell to 275.2 million MWh from 294.67 million MWh in the same month in 2019.

Over the same period, gas-fired generation climbed 5.0% to 108.1 million MWh. Coal-fired generation declined 32.4% to 40.6 million MWh, to account for 14.7% of the net total. Renewable output declined by 5.3% to 64.2 million MWh, with wind having the largest share at 10.7%, followed by conventional hydro with an 8.6% share.

Year-to-date through April, utility-scale generation declined 4.1% year on year to 1.24 billion MWh. Renewable generation grew 4.9% on the year to 257.8 million MWh, as the decrease in other renewable sources was offset by solar and wind. Coal-fired generation declined 33.5% year over year to 212.4 million MWh, while gas-fired generation climbed 10.0% to 490.7 million MWh. Renewable sources including hydro accounted for 20.8% of overall U.S. generation in the first four months of the year, above coal's share of 17.2% but slightly behind nuclear's share of 21.3%.

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Power-sector coal stockpiles increased by 6.5 million tons during the month, below the 10-year average build of 6.8 million tons. During the prior 10 years, April stockpile fluctuations versus the prior month have ranged from a build of 1.3 million tons to a build of 12.7 million tons.

The EIA estimates that the April stockpile level of 152.0 million tons translates to 122 days of burn and 105 days of burn, respectively, for bituminous and subbituminous coal, 46.6% and 25.6% above the five-year averages for the month.

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